PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Taliban militants armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades stormed the campus of the Agriculture Training Institute in Peshawar city on Friday morning, killing at least 12 people and injuring more than 35 others. Most of the victims were students.
Provincial police chief Salahuddin Mehsud told reporters that gunmen entered the campus clad in “burqas” and wearing suicide vests.
The army and police conducted a joint operation that lasted for about two hours and killed three attackers.
Mehsud said police are trying to identify a fourth suspect whose body was found at the site.
The attackers apparently targeted a dormitory for students and teachers at the campus.
Another senior police official, Sajjad Khan, later told NBC News: “Three suicide bombers armed with AK-47 assault rifles and hand grenades entered the hostel and opened fire on the students before triggering their explosives-filled jackets.”
Although the police and army reached the site within five-to-six minutes, several people had been killed in the attack’s early moments.
One student, who managed to flee from the hostel, told media that there were about 40 students in the hostel at the time of the attack.
“Along with some 15 others, I fled the place and we escaped unhurt,” he said.
Another student, Sajjadullah, from Buner district, told Arab News that soon after the first shots were fired, students ran from their rooms and jumped over the boundary wall, fleeing for their lives.
Hayatabad Medical Complex Director Shahzad Akbar told media that six bodies and 18 wounded had been brought to the health facility, while sources at Khyber Teaching Hospital said they received three bodies and 17 injured.
The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place around 20 miles from the Afghanistan border.
Peshawar has been the scene of several such attacks, including the deadliest atrocity in Pakistan’s history, when the Pakistani Taliban killed more than 130 children at the Army Public School in December 2014, since when Pakistan’s military have conducted several major operations against extremists and their auxiliary groups.
But Peshawar has witnessed a surge in terror attacks in recent weeks. On Nov. 24, Additional Inspector General of Police Ashraf Noor was killed when a suicide bomber rammed his motorcycle into the police official's vehicle en route to his office.
A Pakistan military spokesman told the media that the attackers were in contact with their handlers in Afghanistan throughout the assault.
Meanwhile, Afghan Ambassador Omer Zakhilwal took to Twitter to condemn the “cowardly terrorist attack” in the “strongest terms.”
“Our hearts and prayers on this exalted day of Milad-ul-Nabi are with the bereaved families,” he added.
The attack came as an Afghan military delegation is visiting Pakistan to discuss border security.
TTP spokesman Mohammed Khorasani claimed in a message available with Arab News that the assailants targeted a safe house of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's spy agency.